Goalkeepers rally round Woolston
The goalkeepers' union at Manchester United have offered their support to Paul Woolston, following the sad news that he has been forced to retire.
David De Gea, Dean Henderson, Tom Heaton and Lee Grant have all expressed their sadness at the news that their team-mate is having to quit the game, at the age of 23, due to injury.
They have provided words of encouragement and compassion for Woolston, who was formerly with Newcastle United and played a number of times for the Reds' Under-23s in Premier League 2.
“Well, it’s always bad when someone has to retire at a young age," De Gea told us. "I’ve spoken with him, the other day, and said to him that the most important thing is life, more than football, in terms of a proper life.
“It was sad. I have been training with him, when he was fit, and it’s very sad news. I wish him all the best. He’s a great lad, a great goalkeeper and we all feel really sorry for him.
“I trained with him and he had a very good left foot, I remember, and it’s sad for him and for the club. But, as I said before, I was speaking with him and, first of all, it’s life and being in good conditions to have a good life.
“Of course, in life, sometimes problems happen and things happen. You have to keep looking forward, keep fighting and that is what life means. Like I say, I wish him all the best.”
Henderson is convinced Woolston will bounce back from the disappointment and forge a new career for himself.
“Look, I was speaking to Woolly last night and it’s devastating for himself and for all of us around him," said the keeper recently. "He was a great guy to work with throughout the age groups. When I was in the younger age groups, I even remember playing against him when he was at Newcastle. For such a young lad to retire at the age he is, is devastating.
“But he’s a very clever guy and that will stand him in good stead. I’ve texted him and will hopefully go for food with him next week and see how he is and have a proper catch-up. I wasn’t aware of the news until recently due to Covid bubbles and people not seeing each other and it’s something that has been kept under wraps. It’ll be good to catch up with him and see he’s alright.
“He’s a good lad who knows what he wants. He knew what he wanted when he was a player. He was such a technically gifted goalkeeper as well so it’s such a shame to lose him at such a young age. Going forward, I’m sure he’ll put his drive into something else and it will set him in good stead. He will always be made welcome here. I’m hoping he will do a bit around the Academy and hopefully pass on his experiences. I think he can help them a lot, he’s played a lot of games in non-league as well, so he has a lot of experience to draw on. I think he’s got a lot to give to the football club, going forward.”
Heaton has not spent much time with the Under-23s, due to the Covid bubbles and regulations, but was sad when informed of the news.
"It’s very difficult," he admitted. "Obviously, I’m aware of the situation with Paul. It’s been a difficult period, in terms of the pandemic, so we haven’t mixed much since I’ve been back at the club but, obviously, I knew of him and knew he was having a difficult time with injury.
"It’s a tough moment. It can’t be nice when you reach that point where you’re having to retire. I’m sure, from everything I hear about him as a lad, that he’ll move on to pastures new and transition into whatever he goes into next well. He’s got support from the entire football club, especially the goalkeeping department, and obviously I wish him all the best. I’m sure he’ll be absolutely fine moving forward, with whatever he decides to do."
Grant has been a great help to his colleague and has spoken at great length about what comes next for the North Shields-born keeper.
“Do you know what, I’ve been so impressed with Paul," said Grant. "Obviously the news he’s had is terrible and it’s probably the news that all of us as professionals, who rely on our bodies, probably fear the most. Me and Paul had a good relationship prior to this so we’ve managed to speak a little bit about how he’s thinking and feeling moving forward. I’ve been so, so impressed with how he’s carried himself across all of it.
“That’s obviously credit to who he is as a person, his outlook on things, so I’ve no doubt that he’s going to be fine whatever he goes on to do next. Of course for him in this moment it’s difficult. As I say, in this type of situation there’s probably a certain type of individual that is able to handle what is a huge moment and a really difficult moment. Certainly he has the characteristics in terms of his personality to be able to deal with it.”
“We get on great, it’s nice for me to have somebody that’s so young yet is able to quite comfortably be in and around the senior pros and handle himself in conversation. We’ve spent time training and working together. He’s been up plenty of times working with the senior group, so we’ve built that relationship. For me, any young player that comes up, part of my job and my role I take on really is to help young players.
“Paul’s no different to any of the young players we’ve got at this football club in that respect. Obviously being a goalkeeper and having the attitude and the personality he’s got, I warmed to him straightaway. Yeah, certainly from my point of view I’m obviously looking to try and help as and when I can, whether that’s advice or anything else. So I’d like to think he knows I’m there if need be.
“We spoke a few times about this [the future] and obviously the first thing is to not rush. There is that tendency to think ‘what am I going to do?’ and ‘how am I going to do it?’ and ‘when’s it going to happen?’ I think for him and his situation there’s two things that he’s got going for him. One is personality but two he’s an intelligent young man. I’ve no doubt he can turn his hand to whatever he chooses to do and certainly with the drive and determination he’s shown throughout his career and certainly in his journey over the last couple of years, which has been difficult at times, I’ve no doubt that once he commits himself to something he’ll be a complete success.
“I’m really positive about that. I know for him at this moment it can be a bit daunting but certainly the people I’ve spoken to around the football club as well, he will have that support – not just from myself, but he will get that guidance. I know he’s from a really strong family who are there for him, supporting him all the way, so the world’s his oyster. As much as he’s in a difficult spot, certainly he’s got plenty of opportunity and positive things ahead of him.”